Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

When and why are babies weaned?

Br Med J 1978; 1 doi: (Published 24 June 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;1:1682
  1. P W Wilkinson,
  2. D P Davies


    A prospective study was designed to investigate the weaning practices of 50 primiparous mothers whose babies were born between September 1976 and March 1978. The question whether the age of weaning influenced growth from birth to 6 months was also considered. The mothers and babies were seen in hospital and then at a follow-up clinic at 1, 2, 3, and 6 months. Details were taken of feeding practices, and measurements made of the babies' weight, length, and subscapular and triceps skinfold thicknesses. Seventeen infants who were breastfed received their first solid food at a mean age of 13.8 weeks, compared with 8.3 weeks for the 33 bottle-fed infants. Most (38) mothers weaned because they though their babies were hungry (crying after a feed or demanding more frequent feeds, or both). The age of weaning did not influence weight gain, growth in length, or change in skinfold thicknesses. The results suggest that the "4-month rule" for weaning is unrealistic. The decision to wean should be based more on the mother's interpretation of her baby's needs than on age alone.